‘And Time Stood Still’ an invaluable historical record



At Skibbereen Heritage Centre we get people calling in all the time looking for information on our two exhibitions – the Great Irish Famine and Lough Hyne. We also get any number of enquiries on topics ranging from genealogy, the history of this area, queries on graveyards, people trying to trace old family burial plots, and many other subjects.

Naturally, we try to help people in any way we can. At this stage there are many, many people in Ireland and across the world who have had their genealogy queries answered successfully by Margaret and Deirdre at the Centre.

The crew here go well above and beyond the call of duty to help people. One of the reasons we can do this, of course, is because we ourselves have a network of local people who we call on to help us.

There’s scarcely a day goes by that we don’t phone a contact here in West Cork to confirm a detail or provide us with a piece of information that will help one of our visitors.

And we know and appreciate just how lucky we are that these local people are so obliging and generous with their time and their knowledge. No matter how much information is online or recorded in books, or in civil or parish records, it’s often the local knowledge that allows us to get a complete story.

One man, who lives not too far from us here at the Centre in Skibbereen, has helped us out countless times. Many of our visitors have had very successful outcomes because this man has taken the time to meet them, help them locate a family grave or provide other family information. That sort of local knowledge is invaluable.

A local source that has proved especially helpful to us over the years is the two volumes of ‘And Time Stood Still’, published in Skibbereen by the St Fachtna’s Past Pupils’ Union. Volume 1 was published in 2002 and Volume 2 in 2008 and they are a quite magnificent pictorial history of Skibbereen and the surrounding areas.

What makes these books so uniquely valuable is the trouble and attention the authors went to in providing so much information about each one of the hundreds of photos included in the two volumes.

At the launch of ‘And Time Stood Still’ Volume I in August 2002, the seven men who undertook the project were dubbed ‘Skibbereen’s Magnificent Seven’. That’s a very appropriate description. What these seven men produced was extraordinary.

‘Skibbereen’s Magnificent Seven’ spent countless hours gathering photographs and researching the stories behind each one of them for the two volumes of ‘And Time Stood Still’. Back, from left, Martin O’Mahony, Jerome Geaney, Michael O’Sullivan, Michael Lucitt, Pat Cleary. Seated, from left, Seamus Ryan and Gerald O’Brien.
(Photo: Philip O’Regan)

Michael O’Sullivan, Seamus Ryan, Gerald O’Brien, Pat Cleary, Martin O’Mahony, Michael Lucitt and Jerome Geaney – all past pupils of St. Fachtna’s – were uniquely suited and qualified to gather those photographs and all that information, and they knew it. These men were also well aware that if such a work was not done by them, then it would never be done. A younger generation would not have had the vast store of knowledge that this group of individuals brought to the project.

At work on ‘And Time Stood Still’.
(Photo: Philip O’Regan)

‘Skibbereen’s Magnificent Seven’ got help from others in producing Volume 2 of ‘And Time Stood Still’ but it was largely through the painstaking efforts and countless hours of research by this original group that we now have these two volumes of invaluable historical information. Even in the short period since 2008, the passing of that much time has added huge value to these books. They are a treasure. These unique collections of photographs and the information attached will be studied and discussed by Skibbereen people, at home and abroad, for generations.

‘And Time Stood Still’ Volume 1 was launched by Denis Minihane in August 2002.
(Photo: Philip O’Regan)

It is poignant to note, of course, that time does not stand still … Since 2008, three of ‘Skibbereen’s Magnificent Seven’ have died, Martin O’Mahony, Seamus Ryan and Pat Cleary. These three men contributed enormously to the community in Skibbereen in many ways over a long period of time, and the importance of their legacy in ‘And Time Stood Still’ cannot be overstated.

Philip O’Regan

In 2008, St Fachtna’s Past Pupils’ Union were awarded the Muintir Skibbereen Credit Community Award in the Arts, Crafts and Culture section in recognition of their work in publishing two volumes of ‘And Time Stood Still’.
(Photo: Philip O’Regan)
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